The Cotswolds is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in central southwest England. This breathtaking region of rolling hills, untamed wolds, and idyllic villages is spread across the five counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire. As one of the most luxurious destinations for a British getaway, the Cotswolds offers exceptional gastronomy and upmarket accommodation inclusive of charming vacation cottages and spa hotels.
You can connect to the larger towns of Cirencester, Cheltenham, or Bath by train from London. Once there, it is wise to hire a car to get around the various villages. Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful towns and villages of the Cotswolds.
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Awash with honey-colored cottages overlooking a babbling brook, Castle Combe is the definition of a postcard-pretty English village in the Cotswolds. The main attraction is to simply roam the streets with your camera with a stop for coffee and cake before following the brookside paths or venturing into the woodlands. The faceless clock inside St Andrew's Church is thought to be one of the oldest in the country while the village hall occasionally hosts craft markets.
If the prospect of holing yourselves up in one of the cozy inns appeals, book a stay at The Manor House. This 5-star mansion hotel offers a full English breakfast, afternoon tea, and Michelin-starred dining at Bybook. The property also has an Italian garden and an 18-hole championship golf course. Bath is a short drive from Castle Combe if you feel like soaking in the Thermal Baths.
Bourton-on-the-Water is equidistant from Cheltenham and Chipping Norton. The Windrush passes through the village and has hosted “Football in the River” tournaments for at least a century. It’s an unusual event to spectate and perfect for soccer fans as well as couples and families. The village itself is teeming with antique stores, cafes, and pubs. Don’t miss the Model Village exhibition where a miniature replica of Bourton-on-the-Water is laid out among verdant gardens. Other attractions include the Motoring Museum and Birdlank where you will encounter penguins, flamingoes, pelicans, and “dinosaurs”.
The Chedworth Roman Villa is a wonderful side trip from Bourton-on-the-Water. This beautifully preserved complex informs you about the Roman invasion of Albion through mosaics, archaeological trails, and bathhouses.
Technically a town, Burford is known for its thatched cottages, three-arched medieval bridge, and its Grade I listed Anglican church. Hill Street races downhill to meet the River Windrush and offers spectacular views of the surrounding natural beauty. Although it’s not long you could spend almost a full day browsing the knitwear, books, and souvenirs as well as gracing the tea rooms and inns. Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, and Liz Hurley are regulars in Burford.
Convenient for Bourton-on-the-Water, Chedworth, and Burford, Thyme is stationed within a Cotswold-stone manor near Southrop. Botanically-inspired guest rooms, suites, and stand-alone cottages are appointed with premium linens, fireplaces, indulgent soaking tubs, and gorgeous views. Four dining outposts focus on seasonal produce harvested from the estate and curated into a culinary extravaganza under the eye of head chef, Charlie Hibbert. A pre-dinner massage at Meadow Spa will ensure you turn up hungry.
This is only a sample of what awaits you in the Cotswolds. The region may be enjoyed at any time of year, with summer bringing the warmest weather but spring and fall being the most pleasant for a mix of outdoor and indoor activities. Due to the festive markets and cozy thatched inns, the Cotswolds is a fine addition to a winter holidays itinerary in London.
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